You may have recently read news articles or seen newscasts concerning the increase of obesity in the United States. The rise of obesity has even been referred to as an epidemic. Over sixty percent of adult Americans are overweight and over twenty percent of children are overweight. But I need to back up for a moment and give you statistical definitions of “overweight” and “obesity”.

Overweight, for statistical purposes, is defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of twenty- five to twenty-nine and obesity is having a BMI of thirty or higher. By the way, BMI is basically the relationship between a person’s height and weight. Surprisingly, the notion of comparing height to weight dates back to the middle of the 1800’s. I should also caution you that BMI is not a measurement of a person’s body fat. The BMI is meant to broadly categorize populations for purely statistical purposes. Its accuracy in relation to actual levels of body fat is easily distorted by such factors as fitness level, muscle mass, bone structure, gender, and ethnicity.

Over the last few weeks, several organizations ranked and published the “Healthiest Cities”. Most ranked Washington, DC and Minneapolis, MN as either #1 or #2. This is no surprise, as over the years, both of these cities have been the forerunners. Closer to home, the good news is that Pittsburgh is emerging from the bottom of the list. Some rankings have us in the top twenty and in some rankings, even the top ten healthiest cities. Several factors are considered in the rankings, such as health care availability, nutrition and exercise, mental health issues, and obesity rates, to name a few. But let’s stay focused on only the obesity rates.

Twenty years ago, Pennsylvania adults had an average BMI of about twelve percent. The most current data now indicates that number for adults in this state has more than doubled to over thirty percent. Since 1980, obesity rates have risen three-fold. This does sound like an epidemic, doesn’t it? The point that I’m making is not to become overwhelmed with indexes and numbers, but a trend like this should cause a bit of concern. Higher BMI rates have a greater association with ailments like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, strokes, early mortality rates, depression, and a multitude of other health issues.

Again, closer to home, Pittsburgh is beginning to reverse that trend. A few years ago, over thirty percent of Pittsburghers were statistically obese. Recent studies, however, show the obesity rate has declined to twenty-seven and one-half percent of the adult population.

So how does Pittsburgh stack-up in overall BMI? In a 190 city census, the Burg’s 27.5% ranked 126th. The lowest city was Boulder, CO with 12.1% and ranked the highest was Huntington, WV with 39.5%. Other notable PA cities are 74th Allentown with 24.6%, 84th Philadelphia with 25% and 170th Harrisburg with 30.8%.


I could probably write at least fifty pages regarding the problems associated with obesity and high BMI’s, but I’m sure that since you’re reading this article, Body Systems is playing a key role in keeping your BMI rate in check. This, of course, is one of the most important decisions regarding your health, not only today, but years in the future. Together, let’s become the group that drives the Burg’s “less-fattening” trend forward for decades to come!